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Lawmakers put grievances aside, approving $1.9 billion EV battery plant in Marshall County

The Mississippi Legislature has approved a $1.9 billion economic development plan Governor Tate Reeves is touting as the second-largest investment in state history.

During Thursday’s special session, lawmakers passed a handful of bills opening the door for an electric battery producer comprised of a partnership between four companies to set up shop at the Chickasaw Trails Industrial Park in Marshall County, despite concerns levied by some leaders.

The companies involved are Accelera by Cummins, the zero-emissions business unit of Cummins Inc., Daimler Trucks & Buses, PACCAR, and EVE Energy, a Chinese-based technology company. Each of three auto manufacturers will hold a 30 percent stake in the venture and EVE Energy will have 10 percent ownership.

Leading into the special session, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle aired grievances with the project. On the GOP side, some elected officials were troubled by the level of Chinese influence involved in the project. Democrats, on the other hand, felt like the project was being pushed through too quickly.

House Minority Leader Robert Johnson, who ultimately voted for the bills, did not believe the special session was necessary and argued that lawmakers ought to have been given more time to read through the 200-plus page legislation. Though a supporter of the new project, Johnson would like to see more economic development work in other portions of the state, such as the Delta, in dire need of a financial boost.

“I’m still reading the bill, but I want to applaud the Mississippi Development Authority and the governor for finding and making sure that we can secure these kinds of opportunities for the state of Mississippi,” Johnson said on MidDays with Gerard Gibert. “To quote the governor, he [says] he’s a governor for all of Mississippi. I would like to see economic development for all of Mississippi.”

Putting grievances aside, legislators decided to come together and pass SB 2001 and SB 2002 which appropriated funding for the economic development initiative colloquially dubbed Project Poppy, and HB 1, which essentially establishes the parameters for the project.

Project Poppy is expected to bring in 2,000 jobs with an average annual salary of approximately $66,000 — the largest annual payroll commitment of any major project Mississippi has ever seen, according to Reeves.

“It will further enshrine Mississippi as a national leader in the automotive industry. This deal is further proof of the good things that are happening in our state,” Reeves said when introducing the project on Tuesday. “The momentum we’re experiencing at the moment is unprecedented. Mississippi is attracting new jobs, and our economy is growing stronger every day. Today’s announcement further cements that.”

As part of the proposal, the state will be forking over $350 million, including a $186.7 million grant to the companies. The grant will go toward “inside the fence” reimbursements, construction, training, and state agency expediting funds.

Mississippi is also committing to 10 years of 100 percent corporate income tax exemptions, sales and use tax exemptions for additional construction up to one year after the site is developed, public infrastructure, and access roads.

While the legislation went through with relative ease, there were a couple of hiccups on the House side. Two amendments to HB 1 were introduced by Johnson. One of the amendments served to ensure that at least 70 percent of employees hired by the incoming business are Mississippi residents due to the site being roughly 20 minutes from the Tennessee state line.

The second amendment to the bill required the producer to invest in community improvements in Marshall County. Both amendments failed and the bill was passed with a 117-2 vote before ultimately being agreed upon by the Senate with near unanimous support.

Mississippi Major Economic Impact Authority funds will be used to assist with infrastructure needs, site preparation, and tax credits.

Editor’s note: Gov. Tate Reeves signed the legislation mentioned in the above article into law on Friday afternoon. 

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